Review: Hotel Rwanda

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Nick Nolte and Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda
Nick Nolte and Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda



In 1994, 800,000-plus Tutsis were butchered by their Hutu neighbours while the West debated whether this was genocide or merely isolated “genocidal acts”– i.e. not serious enough to warrant intervention. A decade on and the conflict is beginning to arrive on cinema screens, and most of the attempts to turn a dark day in human history into screen entertainment are taking the Schindler’s List approach – finding the rare good thing in a sea of bloody mayhem. As has director Terry George in this effectively realised true story about Rwanda’s own “Schindler”, Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who risked his Hutu hide to save upwards of 1,000 Tutsis.

This is an incredibly tense piece of work that understands not just how to craft drama but how to cast a movie – and cast against type. Which is why man of action Nick Nolte is playing a benign but impotent United Nations peacekeeper. Joaquin Phoenix, meanwhile, is effective as the maverick cameraman who first got pictures of the atrocities out. But both stars take a back seat to Don Cheadle as Rusesabagina. Forget completely that dreadful Cockney accent in Ocean’s 11/12 – Cheadle comes up with a complex portrayal of a man who is Hutu by birth, a wheeler-dealer by experience but a humanitarian by nature. And Sophie Okonedo, as his Tutsi wife, looks like she’ll be leaving TV roles and bit parts behind for ever. Mass murder and mass entertainment may not mix, but this is probably as near as any film is going to get.

© Steve Morrissey 2004


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Hotel Rwanda (2004) Biography, Drama, History | 121min | 4 February 2005 (USA) 8.1
Director: Terry GeorgeWriter: Keir Pearson, Terry GeorgeStars: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin PhoenixSummary: 1994. In Rwanda, the classification of the native population into Hutus and Tutsis, arbitrarily done by the colonial Belgians, is now ingrained within Rwandan mentality despite the Rwandan independence. Despite the Belgians having placed the Tutsis in a higher position during the Belgian rule, they have placed the majority Hutus in power after independence. Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu married to a Tutsi, Tatiana Rusesabagina, is the House Manager of the Hotel Des Milles Collines in Kigali. The Milles Collines, owned by Sabena (the national airline of Belgium), is a four-star hotel catering primarily to wealthy white westerners. Paul, who knows how to work the system to run the hotel effectively for its guests and for Sabena, is proud that most of the Caucasians who he meets in this professional capacity treat him with respect. After a specific incident, the relative calm between the Tutsi guerrillas and government-backed Hutu militia takes a turn. Paul's thought that the native ... Written by Huggo


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